Jason Kratz

March 21, 2021

Using HEY for email - 10 days in

It's been 10 days since I decided to pay for my hey.com email account and I've been using it full-time now for several weeks (including the trial) and I thought I'd share my initial impressions of the service.

There is no doubt that HEY is opinionated about how to handle email. It is not a standard email service so part of the challenge for me was coming from a standard email service (Fastmail) where I had built up a very defined workflow that was working for well for me to trying the "HEY way". When I came to HEY to really give it a try I wanted to do it their way, not try to shoehorn in some workflow that just doesn't fit how they designed the system.

My own workflow was basically the following:

  1. Everything comes into the inbox so I can see it.
  2. File the email into the proper set of labels (Fastmail supports multiple like Gmail) and archive.
  3. Snooze where appropriate.

Over the years I've developed a pretty refined set of labels that I am very consistent about and help me find things quickly. Fastmail search is also very good so between my labeling system and search I've never had a problem finding important emails.

HEY turns that all on it's head. Now I've got three spots to store stuff along with a single label for a given email. So far it's working out fine even with the workflow I had set up before. Just following their recommendations only important stuff is in the Imbox. Items like banking notices, receipts, or any other kind of "notice" is going into the Paper Trail. Newsletters, sales flyers, etc. are going into The Feed. I've also redefined what is important enough to be labeled to a very small list of items from what I had on Fastmail.

I have to say so far so good. I have had no issues adapting to HEY nor have I had a problem finding anything yet. I have heard complaints online about their search, which so far hasn't affected me at all. In fact none of the complaints I've read about have come up for me. Granted for some of those people they've been using the service for a year and I've only been doing it for 10 days but some of what seems to be a "problem" isn't so much a problem with HEY vs. expectations. Some people just seem to think it should work a certain way and don't seem to be trying to adapt themselves to what it is.

There are two things I've noticed that people have problems with that have easy solutions. The first is what to do with things that have a limited shelf life, like sales flyers. I put that stuff in The Feed for right now because I've been actively maintaining that list. I could also see just using the "set aside" feature for those because that list of items by definition requires routine maintenance so old sales flyers, etc. that aren't relevant anymore can easily be found and deleted. The second is that people complain about having long lists of stuff in the Imbox, etc. Don't be afraid to delete stuff! There is no reason to keep everything. This applies to HEY just like any other email system. I noted above that I maintain The Feed and that means I'm going in there and deleting things on a regular basis. 
I am considering two changes to my workflow. The first is that most items that are being filed automatically into the Paper Trail I might just have hit the Imbox first and then file them manually in the Paper Trail. Most of the items that get auto-filed there I'd prefer to see in the Imbox first as I find them important enough. In a way I think this kind of goes against the design intent of the Imbox and Paper Trail but it's a nice compromise for me between the design and my old workflow. The second change is to use Set Aside for stuff like sales flyers as I mentioned above. I do find that I'm spending more time than should be necessary maintaining that list when it's really designed to be a place for stuff to read when you've got a spare moment.

So far I am enjoying HEY. To be honest I paid because of HEY World but if I was going to pay $99 for a year of service I decided that I was going to give using HEY full time for email a good chance as well. It has been easy enough to set up forwarding into HEY and keep using my main custom domain to send email out of HEY using SMTP. Are there things I'd like to change? Of course but I'm finding that list pretty small. The key here is expect to give up some control, control which you probably don't need in the first place.